Chisinau Court of Appeal ends Ala Popa's lawyer's attempt to bring CIJM journalists to the trial

Anticorupţie.md
21/06/2022
Colaj

Chisinau Court of Appeal overturned on Tuesday the January decision of the Chisinau District Court, which forced prosecutors to start a criminal case against the Center of Investigative Journalism (CIJM), journalists Cornelia Cozonac and Julieta Savitchi, as well as civic activist Anatol Mătăsaru for collecting information in a journalistic investigation into the undeclared property of former Deputy Prosecutor General Igor Popa. The decision admitting both the prosecutors' appeal and the CIJM's appeal is irrevocable.

It is about the decision taken on January 27, 2022 by the magistrate Victor Rațoi, who annulled the prosecutor's order regarding the refusal to start criminal proceedings at the request of Ala Popa for the alleged illegal collection of data on the property of the two spouses, Igor and Ala Popa, in the journalistic investigation "VIDEO // The fictitious divorce and the hidden property of prosecutor Igor Popa", published on July 22, 2020.

The journalistic investigation revealed that the prosecutor Igor Popa, head of the Ciocana office of the Chisinau Municipal Prosecutor's Office, previously a former deputy general prosecutor, did not indicate in his statement on property his real estate. He filed for divorce with his wife, after which he registered the buildings in her name.

The journalists revealed in the journalistic investigation that the prosecutor lives with his wife and children in that building, a luxury one in the center of Chisinau. At the end of 2021, prosecutors started two criminal cases against Igor Popa, for false statements and illicit enrichment. Both cases are based on information from the journalistic investigation.

The Center for Investigative Journalism and the authors of the investigation have been subjected since 2019, right from the beginning of the investigation process, when the Cadastre Real Estate Data Register was accessed, until now, to a series of intimidation and harassment actions by the ex-wife of the prosecutor, Ala Popa, lawyer by profession.

It is worrying that state institutions are being used to achieve the purpose of intimidating and silencing journalists.

For example, the National Center for Personal Data Protection issued two conflicting decisions in the same case for the CIJM case, one for breach of the law and one for non-breach. These decisions were the basis for Judge Rațoi's motivation to cancel the prosecutor's order.

The entire harassment process of investigative journalists is documented in another journalistic material, "Case Study: How a Prosecutor's Wife Tried to Silence Journalists," published in October 2021.

For almost a year, from November 2020 to September 2021, the Center for Investigative Journalism, journalists Julieta Savitchi, Cornelia Cozonac and activist Anatol Mătăsaru, were investigated in a criminal trial, initiated by the Centru Police Inspectorate, based on the complaint of Ala Popa , which claimed "the illegal collection and unauthorized dissemination by the Center for Investigative Journalism of information about personal life, which is a personal secret."

The criminal trial with no. 20200101462 of November 4, 2020 was examined in the light of the provisions of art. 177 of the Criminal Code, according to which the legislator establishes the criminal liability for “violation of the inviolability of personal life”, ie “illegal collection or knowingly dissemination of information, protected by law, about personal life, which constitutes personal or family secret of another person, without her consent.

On September 20, 2021, the prosecutor Sergiu Harea from the Centru Prosecutor's Office signed the ordinance not to start the criminal investigation against the Center for Investigative Journalism. He accepted the report with the proposal not to start the criminal investigation, presented by the criminal investigation officer of the Criminal Investigation Section of the Police Inspectorate Centru of the Chisinau Police Department, Mihaela Crulicovschi. The reason for not starting the criminal investigation in the criminal process no. 20200101462 was that "the deed does not meet the elements of the crime".

On January 27, Judge Victor Rățoi annulled the decision not to prosecute, a decision challenged by the Chisinau Prosecutor's Office and the CIJM.

The Center for Investigative Journalism described these concerted actions as an unprecedented attack on the team of investigative journalists and on freedom of the media, freedom of expression in the Republic of Moldova.

   This is the first time in the Republic of Moldova that a criminal case has been ordered against journalists who have done their professional work, which sets a dangerous precedent and seriously undermines freedom of the media and freedom of expression.

After the decision taken by Victor Răţoi, several NGOs, as well as representatives of state institutions, showed solidarity with the journalists from CIJM.

Anticorupţie.md
21/06/2022



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